A thrifty shopper always knows that there’s a balance between cost and performance: The sweet spot in between is where you get the most value. With a bigger budget, you can buy a dishwasher with all the bells and whistles, but having a smaller budget doesn't mean you have to put up with inferior stain removal. It is possible to get great cleaning power at an affordable price, even if it means passing on some higher-end features and finishes.
After testing hundreds of dishwashers, the LG LDF554ST(available at Home Depot for $548.10) came out on top as of the best dishwashers for its price. The LDF554ST had a killer Heavy Duty cycle which blasted away stains and a solid warranty to give you peace of mind. It'll clean your dishes, but won't clean out your bank account.
Here are our rankings for best affordable dishwashers we tested, in order:
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The LG LDF5545ST may look futuristic, but behind its unique, integrated handle is a quiet, efficient, stainless steel dishwasher with a plethora of cycles and features. Amazingly, this LG dishwasher has a cleaning performance that is comparable to that of our highest-rated Bosch dishwashers but only costs half as much. The LDF5545ST has the best Heavy cycle that's ever come through our labs—it removed 100 percent of the stains on every single dish, and showed no evidence of redeposit. The Heavy cycle took about two-and-a-half hours to finish, but we can hardly complain when extremely dirty dishes come out spotlessly clean.
With a solid warranty and relatively low price, this dishwasher will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
We have plenty of experience testing these products in the lab, but we've also used them like normal people would in the course of their daily lives, which means that we have a great sense for what appliances are bargains at their price points, and which appliances have really useful extra features (as opposed to the kitchen-sink approach to features).
With all this in mind, you can feel confident that when we recommend a product, we're giving it our Reviewed stamp of approval, which means two things: firstly, this appliance performs well, and secondly, this appliance is easy to use. We're always reviewing new products, so stay tuned for our reviews and roundups of the latest products in laundry, refrigerators, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners.
Testing dishwashers is a dirty job, and we're happy to do it. We assess each dishwasher on the three major parts of the dishwasher experience — Performance, Features, and Usability.
Stain removal —We put the three major cycles on a dishwasher (Quick, Heavy, and Normal) to the test by baking food and beverage stains—milk, spinach, egg, oatmeal, meat, and more—onto 15 to 20 dishes that are then loaded into the dishwasher per the manufacturer's loading directions. At the end of each cycle, we determine how much stain has been removed from each dish. Ideally, each dish is 100 percent clean, but that level of cleaning perfection can be harder to achieve in real life.
Redeposit —Redeposit is the term for when, during the course of a dishwasher cycle, water jets remove bits of food from one dish, only to accidentally get it stuck on a second dish. Any dishwasher that shows little to no evidence of redeposit is a winner in our book.
Number of dirty dishes —After a dishwasher cycle has finished, we count the number of dishes that are not 100 percent clean; if your dishwasher can't clean most of your dishes the first time, it's not doing its job correctly.
Cycle time —Dishwasher cycles can run the gamut from 30 minutes to four hours. Shorter cycle times are much more convenient, especially when it comes to large dinner parties, where you may need to reuse dishes from dinner when it's time for dessert.
Drying —Whether it's accomplished with rinse aid, a built-in heater, or a built-in fan, customers expect their dishes to be dry as well as clean. We penalize the dishwasher every time a dish comes out wet, whether it's sopping wet or just covered in a few water droplets.
Features and Usability
While all of the features in the world can't make a bad dishwasher better, they can really add the finishing touch to a dishwasher that does a killer cleaning job. We look at the various cycles, cycle options, and dishwasher specs and assess both how useful the features are, and how easy it is to actually use those features.
For example, a third rack that primarily holds cutlery can often be a game-changer when it comes to freeing up valuable real estate in the bottom rack. However, if the third rack is rickety, doesn't slide smoothly, or prevents the dishwasher from actually cleaning the cutlery, we would penalize the dishwasher, rather than reward it just for having a third rack. The whole point of a dishwasher is to save you from having to spend time scrubbing every dirty dish by hand; if a particular feature isn't going to make the process of using a dishwasher better or easier, then we don't want it.
The best dishwashers have short cycles, superior stain removal and drying power, and features that make the experience of using a dishwasher a painless one.
What To Look For When Buying A Dishwasher
If your dishwasher just died, chances are that you're in a hurry to replace it. When looking for a new or replacement dishwasher, consider the following topics carefully before buy.
No one wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a dishwasher that can't get your dishes clean. Stain removal is the most important facet of our dishwasher testing methodology; we add different food and liquid stains onto a variety of dishes to see how well a dishwasher can clean. If you're out shopping for a dishwasher at a store, be sure to ask the sales associate about the dishwasher's cleaning performance. Additionally, you can look through our dishwasher reviews and our dishwasher roundups to see which dishwashers did the best when it comes to cleaning.
Cycles and Cycle Options
If you're just cooking for one or two people, you may not need a pricey dishwasher with a ton of extra options and features. However, if you have a big family or you often host parties, you might need more customizability in your dishwasher's cycles and cycle options. Extra cycles include China Crystal/Delicate for your more delicate dishes, or Sanitize for sports bottles and baby bottles.
When it comes to cycle options, they mostly relate to the location of the water (i.e. Bottle Jets or Half Load) and the water temperature (i.e. Hi Temp).
If none of these options sound useful to you, then you'd probably be happier with a more basic dishwasher with the three main cycles: Normal, Heavy, and Quick.
As you may have discovered, dishwashers don't always dry your dishes perfectly. If you have a lot of plastic dishes, like tupperware or sports bottles, then you may be really frustrated by the fact that you always have to towel dry these dishes. You can either check out our list of the dishwashers that do a great job of drying your dishes, or you can look for dishwashers that sport extra drying options. Typically, though, dishwashers that have heated drying options (versus just venting the hot air) are more expensive because heated drying requires additional hardware in the dishwasher itself.
Third Rack/Rack Customizability
The third rack is a relatively new development in dishwashers. This narrow tray resides above the top rack, and may or may not have its own wash arm. Depending on the third rack's depth, you can typically fit either just cutlery (that occupy individual tines, and aren't clumped together like they can be in your cutlery basket) or dishes with taller profiles, like ladles, pacifiers, or small bowls. While cleaning results on the third rack might not be as good as they are in the cutlery basket, some people find the convenience of a third rack very enticing.
Another thing to consider is the customizability of the racks themselves. Do all of the tines fold down, or are they rigid? Can you change the height of the racks? Can the cutlery basket be mounted on the door? All of these options give you flexibility when it comes to fitting large or awkwardly-shaped dishes into your dishwasher. If you're mostly washing plates and glasses, though, you might not need to spend the money on this kind of adjustibility.
If you're environmentally- or money-conscious, the prospect of using less water and energy may be appealing to you. Be sure to check out the Energy Star rating for a dishwasher to give you an idea of what you can expect your utility bills to look like. We also talk about energy efficiency in our dishwasher reviews.
If you have an open-concept floorplan, you might want to look for a dishwasher that has a lower sound rating. These days, dishwashers can go as low as 37 dBA, which is akin to the noise you hear in a library. One thing to note with the sound rating: the value reported is an average. So while lower dBA values are definitely better, you might still experience the occasional loud swishing noise during a cycle.
Additionally, generally speaking, dishwashers with stainless steel tubs are typically quieter than those with plastic tubs. There are pros and cons to both types of dishwasher tubs, though, so noise might not be the only consideration.
Do you prefer buttons or a touch panel? While touch panels definitely look sleeker, some dishwasher touch panels are so sensitive that you (or your kids) can accidentally start cycles by brushing against it. Conversely, some touch panels are so insensitive that you have to jab at them a few times before they work correctly. If you're trying one out in the store, be sure to try out the touch panel before-hand so that you can get a feel for how hard you'll have to press down to get a cycle going.
Fit and Finish
Dishwashers often come in a variety of finishes, from regular white or black to black stainless steel or panel-ready (the ability to install a dishwasher cover that matches your cabinetry). While you should be able to find a dishwasher that matches your kitchen setup and your other appliances, be ready to pay more money for any finish more sophisticated than black/white/stainless steel.
Don't worry: whether you're on a budget or have a blank check, you can find a dishwasher that gets your dishes clean. While some high-end dishwashers do a really stellar job of removing food stains, more affordable dishwashers won't let you down. Mostly, the price difference between dishwashers is usually down to more or fewer features and options.
What Does dBA Mean?
The dBA abbreviation refers to "A-weighted decibels," which is the unit that dishwasher manufacturers use to measure how loud a dishwasher is during its operation. You've probably heard of decibels as a measure of loudness before, but the "A-weighting" refers to the fact that certain frequencies are more easily perceived by the human ear than others; for instance, a flute solo sounds louder than a bass solo played at the same volume because the human ear is naturally more attuned to mid- and high-range frequencies than it is to bass-range frequencies. As a result, when manufacturers report how loud a dishwasher actually sounds to someone in the same room of the dishwasher while it's turned on, they report that number in terms of A-weighted decibels (dBA), rather than just decibels (dB).
Other Affordable Dishwashers We Tested
Bosch 100 Series SHEM3AY52N
If you want a Bosch dishwasher, but you're on a strict budget, look no further: The Bosch SHEM3AY52N, part of Bosch's 100 Series line of dishwashers, gives you all the cleaning performance you need at a price you can afford. With a noise rating of 50 dBA, it's a bit louder than other Bosch dishwashers on the market, but we didn't find the sound very noticeable during testing. For best stain removal results, we recommend using the Normal and Heavy cycles, which do a great job at getting rid of really tough stains.
While the dishwasher's control panel is basic, you can use the buttons to access a number of different wash and cycle options. This model comes in black, white, and stainless steel finishes, but the stainless steel finish, unsurprisingly, costs a bit extra. Lastly, while this dishwasher doesn't have a true third rack, it does have a small utility rack that sits atop the second rack, and is large enough to fit ladles, short glassware, or more cutlery. Bosch's 100 Series dishwashers make some of the best Bosch features available to those who couldn't afford them previously.
With the Whirlpool WDT750SAHZ dishwasher, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. This dishwasher has a killer heavy cycle, a smudge-proof stainless steel finish, and a number of extra cycle options and drying features. While the cycles tend to run a little long, we think you'll be pleased with the cleaning results.
Even better, this dishwasher is very adjustable, and won’t have any trouble fitting large or awkwardly-shaped items. It’s easy to fold down the rack tines or to raise or lower the upper rack. If you really need the extra space on the bottom rack, the cutlery basket can be mounted on the door of the dishwasher. For a dishwasher that can take on dishes of any size or shape, check out the Whirlpool WDT750SAHZ.
The Whirlpool WDT730PAHZ is an affordable dishwasher with basic features—a cutlery basket with cut-outs for individual knives, forks and spoons, a height-adjustable top rack, and a few extra wash options. It performs best on the Normal cycle, where it removes nearly 100 percent of the food stains, and each dish comes out bone dry.
The only downside is that the cycle times are a bit long; both the Normal and Heavy cycles clock in at over two hours. The 1-Hour cycle, however, lives up to its name and finishes in about an hour. The 1-Hour cycle is not as good at stain removal as the Normal cycle is, but it is able to successfully tackle less dirty dishes. The Whirlpool WDT730PAHZ is a great budget option for those who primarily rely on the Normal cycle to deal with the weekly dish load.
If you want your dishwasher to look like it costs a lot more than it actually does, the Whirlpool WDT710PAHZ is the dishwasher for you. Its sleek matte stainless steel finish means that it is mostly resistant to fingerprint smudging, so it always looks brand new on the outside. On the inside, you'll find a couple of neat higher-end features that have migrated down to this price tier. Firstly, the cutlery basket is actually mounted on the door, which frees up valuable real estate in the bottom rack. Secondly, there's a fan turns on during most cycles and dries your dishes.
Like the WDT730PAHZ, this dishwasher's strongest cycle is the Normal cycle, where it cleaned over 99 percent of the food stains, and completely dried each dish, leaving no water residue behind. The Heavy and 1-Hour cycles didn't do as well when it comes to stain removal, and both the Heavy and Normal cycles take over two hours to finish. For those who want luxury looks at a bargain, though, you can't do better than the Whirlpool WDT710PAHZ.
Impressive cleaning for its price point
Low yearly power and water costs
Runs at a relatively quiet 51 dBA
Weak quick cycle
Had issues with redeposit
Frigidaire Gallery FGIP2468UF
If you need more from your dishwasher than a great Normal cycle, the Frigidaire FGIP2468UF dishwasher gives you plenty of options. In addition to water temperature options like Sanitize and High Temp, this dishwasher also has a number of extra cycles and cycle options (like China Crystal, Energy Saver, Top Rack Only, and more) that can deal with any dish scenario. It even has a built-in heater to expedite dish drying.
The FGIP2468UF did a great job of cleaning our test dishes, although, like most of the dishwashers we test, it stumbled a bit on the spinach stain. Thanks to the built-in heater, the dishes that came out sparkling clean were also perfectly dried. The Frigidaire FGIP2468UF is a dishwasher that balances both strong cleaning performance and neat features and cycle options.
Lots of cycles and cycle options
None that we could find
The GE GDT605PSMSS doesn't come with a third rack. However, if you lay down some extra cash, you can buy GE's third rack dishwasher kit, which allows some GE dishwashers to be retrofit with a third rack. We actually tried the third rack accessory kit out on the GDT605PSMSS, and found that it was a breeze to install; if you have a relatively new GE dishwasher with a plastic tub, this kit is a quick and easy way to instantly add extra storage and versatility.
As for its performance, we found that the GDT605PSMSS performs similarly to the GE GDF630PGMWW. All three major cycles had issues with our dirty test dishes. The Heavy cycle did the best cleaning job, but even that cycle really struggled with one of our hardest stains, the baked-on spinach. If you're shopping on a budget, and want the flexibility of being able to add a third rack dishwasher (or not), take a look at the GE GDT605PSMSS.
If you assume that affordable dishwashers are under-served with features, the GE GDF630PGMWW gives you a chance to reconsider. Between the height-adjustable upper rack, included third rack, and the bottle jets on the upper rack, we give this GE dishwasher two big thumbs-up when it comes to features that add value. If the white plastic finish isn't your favorite, you can spend a few extra bucks to get the same model with a slate, black slate, or stainless steel finish.
Like the GE GDT605PSMSS, though, the cleaning performance isn't perfect. With long cycle times and difficulty removing baked-on stains, we think the GDF630PGMWW is best for a family that isn't doing a lot of intense cooking or baking.
A third rack, bottle jets, and many other features
The Whirlpool WDF330PAHW is a good bare-bones dishwasher. It only has three cycles (Normal, Heavy, and 1-Hour), and the only extra cycle option you can select is heated dry, which turns on a heating element at the bottom of the dishwasher.
Like some of the other Whirlpool dishwashers on this list, your best bet for cleaning is the Normal cycle. During the Normal cycle, the Whirlpool WDF330PAHW was able to remove more than 97 percent of the food stains, and completely dried every single test dish except for one. The racks do not have adjustable tines, so you may have trouble fitting large or awkwardly-shaped dishes, but if you prefer having a streamlined, easy to operate interface, then the Whirlpool WDF330PAHW is both easy to use and great at cleaning.
The Whirlpool WDTA50SAHZ is one of the few dishwashers at this price point that we've tested that has a stainless steel interior. Most budget dishwashers have a plastic tub, which may contribute to louder dishwasher cycles and slower drying. Stainless steel tubs typically make for quieter cycles (indeed, this one clocks in at 47 dBA, which is softer than most other Whirlpool dishwashers at this price point), and also look nicer. This dishwasher also comes with small LED lights that give you status updates as to the cycle's progression. This is especially helpful if the dishwasher is so quiet that you're not sure whether it's running or not.
As for performance, the Normal and Heavy cycles were able to clean more than 96 percent of the food stain off of our test dishes. The 1-Hour Wash cycle, however, really struggled with some of the tougher stains; the trade-off is that the 1-Hour cycle finishes in 60 minutes, while the other two cycles can take as long as three to four hours to finish. This dishwasher is best for households that run the dishwasher on a weekly, rather than daily basis.
Available in stainless steel, black and white, the Amana ADB14000AGS dishwasher isn't just one of the most affordable models we've tested—its Normal cycle does a very nice job getting your dishes clean. With only three cycles and two options, it lacks the fancy features of more expensive dishwashers, but for the asking price, it's a good value.
It struggled with the tougher, baked-on stains during the Heavy cycle, and we also noticed that there was significant spinach redeposit on other, non-spinach dishes. As long as you scrape your dishes clean before starting a cycle, though, your dishes should come out clean.
While its 60 dBA sound rating may sound loud to those who are used to the ultra-quiet dishwashers of today, if you're purchasing this dishwasher to replace an older model, it may just sound quiet to you.
Kenmore 13473 — The Kenmore 13473 dishwasher performs well on the Normal cycle, but the cycle times for both the Normal and the Heavy clock in at over two hours, which is a bit too long for our tastes.
Kenmore 14573 — The Heavy cycle on the Kenmore 14573 does an amazing cleaning job, but all of the cycles we tested had difficulty cleaning tougher stains, like spinach and milk.
Kenmore 13803 — One of the cheapest dishwashers on the market, the Kenmore 13803 really surprised us with its powerful Heavy cycle. Its bare-bones feature set and low price point make it an ideal dishwasher for a rental space, or for the budget-conscious among us who just can't do without a dishwasher.
Frigidaire FFCD2413US — This workhorse Frigidaire dishwasher does a consistently solid stain removal job on the Normal, Heavy, and Quick cycles. However, on those same cycles, its spray patterns resulted in noticeable spinach redeposit.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.